Pianist Igor Levit at Carnegie Hall

New York

Although Russian-German pianist Igor Levit has won acclaim for recordings of Bach and Beethoven, his eclectic tastes reach far beyond the classical music canon. During the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Levit live-streamed, on Twitter, more than 50 concerts from his Berlin apartment, playing everything from Brahms, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich to the piano rags of William Bolcom and Scott Joplin. The longtime Metallica fan is the only classical pianist to cover a song – “Nothing Else Matters” – on the band’s 53-track tribute album, “The Metallica Blacklist.”

And Mr. Levit’s well-attended recital at Carnegie Hall last night in the 2,800-seat Stern Auditorium included the world premiere of a piece by veteran jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch, who created the arrangement of “Nothing Else Matters” for him. The program will be repeated at the Symphony Center in Chicago on Sunday; later this month, Mr. Levit has concerto engagements with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (January 20-22) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (January 27, 29-30).

Stubborn and politically involved, Mr Levit, 34, has appeared on talk shows in Germany and once performed ‘Danny Boy’ in a clearing for a Greenpeace protest. At Carnegie, he was dressed in black and periodically bent over the piano, as if listening to some particular artistic effect.

Variations on a Folk Song by Mr. Hersch, an exploration of “O Shenandoah,” was one of the two standout performances of the evening. It underlined Mr. Levit’s affinity for the theme-and-variations form, a series of pieces derived from an initial musical idea. (Already, his discography for Sony Classical includes Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations, and similar works constructed by 20th-century composers Frederic Rzewski and Ronald Stevenson.) the pianist’s ability to immerse himself so deeply in each segment where he seemed to have a private dialogue with the music.

In his new piece, Mr. Hersch – who draws on jazz and classical traditions in his mostly tonal music – lays out the simple melody of “O Shenandoah” at the start and in the first two of 20 variations, then returns to it at the end. . . In between, snippets of the song or intimations of it in the beats can be heard. More classically oriented than M. Hersch’s “Pastorale (dedicated to Robert Schumann)”, which American pianist Conrad Tao masterfully performed at the 92nd Street Y in December, Variations is a captivating addition to the solo piano repertoire. . The louder and faster third variation suggests a Colandish barn dance, with appealing splashes of dissonance. In a few later variations, it looks like Mr. Hersch is channeling Chopin. One of them had a nostalgic tango nuevo feel to it. Mr. Levit wisely dispatched each section with ease, revealing his kaleidoscope of shifting emotions along the way.

The other defining performance was Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, which closed the concert. With its fearsome double-octave passages, this roughly 30-minute work is not for the faint-hearted or weak-fingered. But the score also requires playing with extreme delicacy and great sensitivity, in which Mr. Levit excels. It provided plenty of visceral passion and excitement where it was needed, but also showed a solid understanding of the sonata’s overall structure, unifying its contrasting segments. Sometimes the pianist couldn’t muster enough strength for virtuoso right-hand passages. Yet he may have had something in store – within minutes of the work’s conclusion, Mr. Levit’s double octaves reached gale-force wind speed and thunderous volume. At the end, when the sonata makes a final statement on the ominous, ice-paced, bass-driven descending octaves that open the piece, the pianist has conveyed a sense of rest, or, at least, a truce between its contrasting thematic components. .

The program opened with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109, which Mr. Levit recorded on his 2013 debut album for Sony Classics. The pianist possesses the perfect lightness of touch for the repertoire of the 18th century. But at Carnegie, some of the passages in the opening movement seemed uneven or rushed; there were missed opportunities for interpretative nuance. The Prestissimo spun without perceptible character. But then came the last movement—a haunting, introspective andante with six variations. The opening chords had a reflective quality. The first aria-like variation had a touch of nostalgic nostalgia. The long and rapid trills of the sixth variation were beautifully executed.

The recital also included a transcription of the Prelude from “Tristan and Isolde” by Richard Wagner (arranged by pianist Zoltán Kocsis). For an encore, Mr. Levit played Liebestod’s transcription of Wagner’s Liebestod which ends the opera, reconnecting perfectly with the “Prelude” played earlier and introducing Liszt as both composer and arranger.

Mr. Levit’s first two solo appearances at Carnegie, in 2017 and 2018, were in his 600-seat Zankel Hall. But it’s clear from the cheers, whistles and cheers that erupted at the end of yesterday’s recital that the pianist has not only developed a wider following here since then, but is able to connect with his audience. in a significative way.

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

About Dianne Stinson

Check Also

Kelly Clarkson CBD Gummies Review (Scam or Legit) Worth Buying? Employment – (DONOTUSE) University of California Santa Barbara Police Department

Kelly Clarkson CBD Gummies: Who advises taking CBD Gummies, price alert, is it a scam, …